Planning, managing and communicating releases is often done as an afterthought. You release the functionality that is done at the end of the sprint, or you release whatever is ready when you hit your milestone. As for planning, well that is the result of numerous meetings, scrum board watching, and hand wrenching.
Having good communication and planning around resources can vastly increase the success of your launches. Stakeholders throughout the organization can see what is coming down the pipe. This can be beneficial to help prepare training and support teams for post-rollout. Also, it can help sales to prospect new clients and close existing ones with new features. Even within the IT organization, it enables better cross-team coordination and DevOps planning. In all, communicating and planning releases should be a core part of your software development lifecycle.
The good news is that if you use Jira and Confluence, there is a seamless way to plan for releases, assess and share progress, and publish release notes when you are done.
Using Fix Versions
The first step in managing releases in Jira is to create a version. To create a version, click on Releases in the left navigation your project (in older Jira versions, it is a ship icon) . You should see a screen like the following:
To create a new release, simply type your version name (this is the only required field), the start and end dates, and a description. Then click the Add button. Now you have a version you can use in your stories and epics.
Using the Fix Version
Once you have created a release, you can assign it to any issue type in Jira by setting the fix version/s field to that version. When you start typing, it will prompt with matching releases, and even show whether they are released or unreleased.
You can set multiple versions for a single item. You may want to use this if you have a number of smaller releases, such as user acceptance testing or regression testing, that end up getting combined into a larger release. Keep in mind that having items – such as epics – that span multiple releases can throw off your reporting, so my general recommendation is to only do this if one release is a “sub” release of another.
Tracking and Reporting Releases
Once you have added all items to your release, there are two ways of generating reports: in Jira directly and in Confluence. You can run a release report in Jira at any time to see the progress of your release. This report will show you how many total issues are in the release broken down by the number in a completed status, in progress or yet to do. One nice advantage is the progress bar that shows this all visually.
One thing to note about this report is that it will report epics (if they are labelled as being in a particular version, which one would likely do) as items as well as all of the issues under that epic, which can be misleading in the issue count.
In Confluence, there are a couple of options: a status report and a total report that is best used for release notes. They are both done by creating a new page and then selecting the Jira report option.
When you select the report, you have two options: one is a status report, the other a “change log”. A status report will give you some graphical elements that enable you to report progress on a release. The change log will be used for the final release notes.
For either option, you can then choose a project, a release and give a title for the report you are going to generate:
The status report will automatically create a few key areas:
- A top section with a date and colored status
- A section to write an overall report summary
- Four pie charts breaking up the project issues by status, priority, component and issue type with real data
The change log/release notes will create a few key areas:
- A date and issue count
- A section to write an overall report summary
- An area to write highlights from the release – this can be user-readable items to discuss what was improved (e.g. security fixes, new feature X, etc.)
- Lists of issues grouped by issue type (epic, bug, issues, etc.) with all the correct data from your release
Once the de facto report is generated, it is yours to edit as you see fit. When you are ready, save and share with any stakeholders.
Overall, using releases in Jira can vastly improve your tracking, projecting, and reporting when you are working in the Jira environment. With just a little extra work, you can have much better planning and coordination of all of all the releases in your projects.
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